What She Carried With Her

Designed by Cynthia Lin

For her, the table was a roof,

a childhood hiding spot,

her sky: the sandpapered underbelly of a glutton

who gobbled up banana purée, fistfuls of cereal,

reversals of fortune,

who wore tiaras and stained bibs, 

who hid avant-garde stick-and-pokes— 

the secrets she collected for a more conscious self.

It was a borrowed nest, 

a stage for her sturdy, polished debut,

enter: dull mahogany waves with wobbly legs,

father’s golden child,

father’s only child.

Leaving now, 

she touts her four-legged burden,

his bargain for a new beginning

bred from an estate’s discounted ashes, 

Edna of 87th Street, circa 1987,

an inherited superstition that

Wherever our table stands,

there is a home.

For him, the table was a floor,

a starting point

With dirt and grime and dust.

Unpaid bills and soiled paper plates that 

tore through the earth in shifts.

From the ground up, 

his callouses to her crayola-caked fingers,

he promised that their table would taste real china 

one day.

A table as steady on its four 

as her father yearned to be on his two,

always just halfway there.

Now up winding stairs,

gripping his farewell gift to her,

she traces every fracture untreated,

a desire relayed by every engraved itch,

the American Dream sloppily scrawled,

caricatures from youth—

the surface, eerily clean. 

Alone in her new room

with the table’s belly empty once more,

she eats with borrowed hunger.

Seeking to feed the gnawing  

between the roof and the floor — here,

where he left his dream for her.

Here it was and always had been:

a starved space from which 

she could no longer hide.

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